Alva James-Johnson

Alva James-Johnson: Potato salad and priorities

Potato salad is a national favorite, but it's also very personal.

I was recently reminded of that fact when a friend called me about her family's rejection of her potato salad on Father's Day. I told her there's one thing you have to keep in mind about potato salad: Everybody has a different idea on what the ingredients should be and what it should taste like.

I've learned that from sampling a variety of recipes over the years. And I've come up with my own recipe -- Hellman's mayonnaise, garlic powder, season salt and a bit of lemon pepper to give it a little zest. And it's best served when the potatoes are still warm. That's just my preference.

Well, it turns out that I'm not the only one who is serious about making potato salad. A story now circulating in the national media is about Zack "Danger" Brown, a man who by Wednesday had raised $72,000 on the crowdfunding website Kickstarter for his first attempt at making the beloved potato dish.

Brown of Columbus, Ohio, started the campaign the day before the Fourth of July holiday. In describing the project, which ends Aug. 2, he wrote: "Basically I'm just making potato salad. I haven't decided what kind yet."

He promised to reward people who donate. For $1, you get a "thank you" on his Web site and your name mentioned while he makes the potato salad; for $2 you get all of that plus a photo of him making the salad; and for $50 or more, donors could get all the aforementioned, along with a potato salad recipe book inspired by every country where people donated, a bite of the potato salad and a dedication page with the name of each backer. Whoopee!

As of Thursday afternoon, Brown had 5,499 donors. But the amount of money raised had dropped down to $44,890, probably from all the negative publicity. It seems people finally came to their senses once they began to see how ridiculous the whole thing is.

On "Good Morning America," Brown said he would try to find something good to do with the money. But it still raises a lot of questions about where our priorities are as a society.

Just last week, I wrote a story about a young couple trying to raise money for a kidney transplant. Michael Grant and his fiancée, Shelby Harrell, launched their Go Fund Me page three months ago, and they've only raised $3,085 so far.

Grant, 28, was born with poor kidney function. After several surgeries, he was left with one functioning kidney, and eventually had two transplants. His body began rejecting the second transplant in 2010, and Grant now has dialysis three times a week. He's trying to raise $10,000 for the surgery he'll need once he finds a kidney match. But you don't see people throwing money at him to help with the life-threatening condition. Guess it just doesn't tantalize the taste buds.

I called Grant yesterday to get his take on all the investors flocking to the potato salad project.

"My first reaction is disbelief," he said. "There are so many needy people and there's always something like this that just takes the spotlight. It's really sad."

He said it probably has something to do with being out of the ordinary. People are so accustom to sickness and disease that it just doesn't tug at the heartstrings anymore, which makes it difficult for people who really need funds to raise the money.

"It's like what else do we have to do to get some attention," he said. "Do I have to be in a circus act?"

Good question.